Detroit Cemetery Faces Lawsuit Over Burial Plot Maintenance and Misrepresentation

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Detroit Cemetery Faces Lawsuit Over Burial Plot Maintenance and Misrepresentation
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Gethsemane Cemetery in Detroit, Michigan and the parties responsible for its function and upkeep—including the City of Detroit, New Calvary Baptist Church, and other managing corporations—are facing a class action lawsuit on behalf of family members of interned loved ones who allege that their loved ones’ graves were tampered with and/or moved without permission.

The plaintiffs allege that the cemetery was grossly negligent and fraudulent in its treatment of the interred and surviving families.

Specifically, the official class action complaint alleges that the following occurred:

  • Family members were buried in plots other than those they specifically purchased.
  • The defendants willfully misrepresented where bodies were buried on the property.
  • The defendants moved gravestones, markers, and burial plots without consent from the family.
  • The defendants dug up and moved bodies without obtaining any disinterment or reinterment permits.
  • Plots were double sold without the families’ knowledge, resulting in multiple individuals being buried in a single plot.

The lawsuit further alleges that the defendants were aware of these practices by the cemetery management company and yet allowed the issues to persist in order to save money, since correcting the issue would involve considerable expense. The lawsuit alleges that the defendants are liable for damages on counts of accounting, gross negligence, and silent fraud for failing to uphold their duty to be truthful about the material facts of the cemetery’s mismanagement.

In April of 2021, a Detroit family discovered four bodies found in a gravesite belonging to a single family member.

This is just one of the examples of the misconduct family members of the interred experience with Gethsemane Cemetery but is perhaps one of the most striking. This event garnered media attention in the Detroit News, pointing out that none of the four bodies found when the grave was exhumed belonged to the one deceased individual who was supposed to be buried there. Many other families came forward with alarmingly similar stories, including family members buried without permission, family members buried in plots that were not their own, damaged gravestones as if they were moved from one place to another, and even graves appearing to be entirely dug up, all without authorization from local authorities and surviving family members.

The plaintiffs are seeking a variety of damages to compensate for these allegations.

If successful, the loved ones of family members interred improperly in this cemetery may receive compensatory damages as well as punitive damages intended to deter the defendants and similar bodies from behaving similarly in the future. Additionally, the plaintiffs are seeking injunctive relief including a full accounting of the remains within the burial plot to determine where any existing negligence persists.

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